Century in Retrospective Archives

October 4, 2006

From the Comments: Jeff R.

21st Century Moll:

Sex feels like music to her. A violin solo, usually, with most of her tricks. A bass guitar if they guy gets rough. A complicated fugue when she's home, with her girlfriend.

She handles all the cash for this neighborhood's Syndicate. Just looks at it, carefully. Counterfeits are usually too purple, and a set of marked bills with their adjacent serial numbers can make the whole pile turn pink.

There's probably a thousand just like her out there, and more coming out of the vats each day. The mob wouldn't let a set of genes this useful go to waste.

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December 1, 2006

Jeff R.: Turing Test

It started with Bayesian filters, analyzing word frequencies of e-mails to automatically determine if a mail was spam or legitimate. Of course, the spammers fought back, inserting word salad to dilute the keywords, fooling the filters.

So, the next-generation filters analyzed the words in a mail to determine if they formed sentences that made sense. The spammers made their own adjustments, making their sentences more like something a person would say, and increasingly complex genetic algorithms continued the arms race.

And that's why, in 2011, the first words spoken an artificially intelligent computer program were "Hey, wanna buy some Viagra?"

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December 7, 2006

Jeff R.:The Smell of Progress

Back when human genetic engineering was just a subject for science fiction, people used to think that rich parents would use it to make 'designer babies' with genes for higher intelligence or atheletic ability. These predictions were clearly made by people who had never changed a diaper in their life.

The first really popular genetic modification was the Load-O-Roses package, giving the kids of the upper-middle-class and beyond lower intestines that not only cleaned up the more offending smells but added a pleasant floral bouquet.

The meaning of the phrase "He thinks his shit don't stink" changed, but only slightly.

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December 11, 2006

Jeff R.:Perils of Hindsight, v. 237

In retrospect, the Solar Shades might have been a mistake.

Launched into orbit in 2019 after Beta finished off on New Orleans and Cuba was half-submerged, they reflected sunlight into space, arresting global warming. They helped, but not enough, so automated lunar factories were built to make more.

In early 2032 they reached a tipping point. By that year's end there were glaciers in London and Chicago. People got nervous, started blowing them up. Another mistake; now there's enough orbital debris that it takes a miracle to get out of the stratosphere, so we're stuck with them for a while.

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January 3, 2007

Jeff R.: Epimetheus and his Brother

It was a paradox of the early 21st century that pundits who were the most optimistic about the power of technology to solve problems facing mankind were simultaneously the most pessimistic about the geopolitical future. The explaination is simple: for much of mankind, the chief problem was 'How can I kill a large number of my neighbors on the cheap?'

Of course, as usual, these predictions were both too expansive and too narrow as Earth began the violent transition from the age of thermonuclear missiles, network computing, and heart transplants to that of implant bombs, quantum cryptopods, and tailored genomes...

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January 25, 2007

Jeff R.:The Wobegon Effect

There once was a great deal of anxiety about 'the singularity'. The theory was that we'd make smarter brains, with genetic engineering, or neurochemistry, or computers. These brains would be better at making stuff...including even smarter brains. Soon, you'd end up with superbrains with more in common with God than with us hairless apes.

Now we know better. Turns out, there's a hard limit to how intelligent minds can get before going mad. Since most parents would rather have kids that are well-adjusted than braniacs, we've forgone a world of mad genius for one where everyone is merely above average.

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January 31, 2007

Jeff R.:The River Lethe, Dammed

Reminol was developed as an anti-Alzheimer's medication, but approval came quickly for general use as a memory enhancer, and by '22 it was the most popular little pill in America. It functioned by forcing the brain to put everything experienced while it was in effect- usually four to six hours- directly into long-term memory, where it would be recalled perfectly until the user slept and fairly strongly afterward.

The side effects were minor: headaches, and mild insomnia. Everybody liked it, pretty much, except for Scientologists, the radical Kassites and the professional teachers, who scrambled to test comprehension rather than retention.

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February 23, 2007

Jeff R.: Nowhere to Go but Up

Mankind's first permanent dwellings beyond Earth were established accidentally. There were 212 people working in orbit, when panicked terrestrial governments destroyed dozens of satelites, filling geosynchronous orbit with shrapnel that destoyed other satelites, making more orbital shrapnel, and so on. The manned stations evacuated to a higher orbit before the orbital debris cascade reached them, leaving them stranded, with no chance of relief or resupply.

With supreme effort and luck, those stranded astronauts completed work on the Mars Voyager, already designed to support a crew nearly that size for years and establish a colony. Which they did, six years later.

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February 26, 2007

Jeff R.:I.S.S.S.V.

After a decade of quiet, the Long War reignited in September of 2021 when four men detonated suitcase nukes, incinerating the Vatican and most of Rome in twenty microseconds. While investigators tried to unravel the intertwined isotope signatures of multiple uranium sources, the Catholic faith, deprived of Benedict III's leadership, and most of the Cardinals, struggled to regroup.

Finding a site for the New Vatican was difficult, as potential host countries weighed tourist income against terror fears. A mafia scandal took Italy out of the running entirely. Eventually, Pope John Paul III was elected by a conclave in Baja California.

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March 5, 2007

Jeff R.: Martian Blossom

After the initial struggle for survival was over, the Martian colonists begin the scientific missions their base was originally designed for. The first deep soil probe revealed a strata of organic material, proof positive of prior life on Mars.

Further, among that material were a good many perfectly preserved spores, ready to live again should the right conditions arise. Director and President Simon Zolivar, always one for the classical reference, labeled one of the sample bottles "10,000 Dehydrated Martians- Just Add Water."

All thought of terraforming Mars vanished, and the project changed to Areoforming: restoring the conditions of primordial Mars.

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